Your pizza recipe has changed our lives. Second week in a row. Not a slice left over.
I started making pizza at home in an attempt to duplicate Papa John’s. We lived 15 minutes away from the closest restaurant and didn’t have a lot of money anyway. This meant that delivery was out of the question so I figured, if I could make it at home, I could both save money and have pizza more often.
I was spending a lot of time learning how to make bread so it was a natural progression into making pizza dough. I still enjoy baking bread but only seem to do it for special occasions. Pizza on the other hand provides the opportunity to gather with friends and enjoy my favorite food.
Here are instructions for making pizza like I do at home. It is easily 10 times better than anything you can get from a national chain. Let me know if you have questions or need to adapt things in any way and want some advice.
An important part of making pizza is having the right tools. While you don’t need much to get great results, a few items go a long way to making things easier.
- Kitchen scale – I would say that this is maybe the most important item to have for making pizza dough. Getting the ratio between the different ingredients is important for consistent results. Being able to weigh instead of measure the ingredients also lets you scale the recipe to the exact number of pizzas you want. Some of the ingredient amounts don’t measure out well either. (See alternate recipe at the bottom of this post if you don’t have a scale)
- Mixer/mixing bowl – when making a lot of pizza, it is easiest to use a good mechanical mixer with a dough hook. For smaller amounts (less than 4), I use a KitchenAid. Natalie has a larger Bosch mixer that can do a good number of pizzas (up to 8). However, when I make a massive quantity of pizza, I don’t have a mixer large enough. In those cases, I use the biggest bowl I have and my own two hands.
- Baking stone/steel – I keep a baking steel in my oven on the bottom rack permanently. Not only is it good for pizza and bread, it is also great for pies to give a good crust (ask Natalie for details). I’ve broken two different stones and would not recommend them. A steel is much better at transferring heat into the dough and won’t crack. If you don’t have either, put the pizza on parchment paper and a cookie sheet and place both into the oven.
- Wooden peel – A wooden peel looks like an oversized paddle. This is used to transfer the pizza from the work surface to the blazing hot pizza steel. If you don’t have one, you can make your pizza on parchment paper and use a cookie sheet to slide it directly onto the steel with the paper. Make sure to dust your peel with flour, flour/semolina mix, or corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking to the peel.
- Metal peel – I first got a metal peel and made the mistake of trying to use that to transfer the pizza into the oven. It was a disaster since the pizza doesn’t slide well on metal. However, it is perfect for pulling out the hot pizza from the oven. Being thin, it will easily slide under the baked crust. If you don’t have one, you can use a cookie sheet or large spatula to carefully transfer the pizza out of the oven. The wooden peel may work too.
- Proofing trays – These plastic boxes are used to proof the dough. I have ones designed for home fridges. I place 2-3 dough balls in each and let them sit overnight in the fridge. I also have used them on the counter when not proofing overnight. If you don’t have these, you can place some olive oil in a 1 gallon sized sealable bag, smear it around, and place a single dough ball into the bag.
- Cooling rack – When you take a pizza out of the oven, you will want to let the pizza cool for a couple minutes before cutting it into slices. This give the pizza a little time to settle and for some of the liquid to evaporate off of the pizza. Having a cooling rack will help keep the bottom of the pizza crispy.
- Giant cutting board – if you plan on making giant pizzas, and why wouldn’t you, you will need a big cutting board to slice it up on. Improvise as needed but make sure to wipe up the juices between pizzas to keep things crispy.
- Pizza wheel cutter – I have tried the kind that is the width of the pizza and burned my knuckles on multiple occasions. What happens is that it slips forward or backwards and your hands dive into the hot pizza. Better to stick with the round pizza cutters. Make sure to have a sharp one.
- Pizza boxes – I tried several ways to preserve the pizza leftovers (when there are any) but the easiest is to use pizza boxes. You can find them at GFS or similar restaurant supply stores. They aren’t expensive and make storing leftovers a breeze. If I want to take a slice or two to work, I will wrap them in aluminum foil. This makes it really easy to pop them into a toaster oven for a crispy lunch.
The following table represents ingredients by weight (in ounces) for one pizza dough ball. I usually convert the weights to grams to be more accurate. It’s important to weigh everything out carefully to get consistent results.
The columns represent the hydration amount. This is how wet/dry your dough will be. I would try something a little drier to start out (60-62% hydration).
Each table is for different sizes of pizza (17 inch, 16 inch, 15 inch, etc.). My oven will not fit anything bigger than a 14 inch pizza. In the size rows, the number is the total weight of one dough ball. This is useful for when you divide your dough into individual balls.
These are the ingredients:
- f = flour (high gluten/bread flour)
- w = water (about room temperature or maybe a little warmer)
- y = yeast (I use Red Star active dry)
- o = olive oil (can use extra virgin)
- s = salt (kosher salt is preferred)
Instructions for making dough:
- Mix together all carefully weighed ingredients for about 1 minute
- Let rest for 5 minutes
- Mix again for about 1 minute making sure all the ingredients are well incorporated
- Remove dough and form into a large ball. It should be fairly sticky and rough at this point
- Place dough onto oiled (use olive oil) counter top
- Let sit 5 minutes
- Flatten and fold in all four sides of the ball. Folding helps create strength by aligning the gluten strands
- Turn over and reform the ball by massaging and pinching the bottom (the folded part) together. You will want to stretch the ball towards the bottom as you do this.
- Let sit again on the counter for 5 minutes
- Repeat steps 7-9 two more times. You will have formed the large ball three different times
- Divide evenly by weight into smaller balls (use the individual dough ball weights from the chart as a guide)
- Shape each individual ball by stretching and massaging until it forms a round ball
- Place in a plastic bag with a small amount of oil or into oiled proofing trays
- Put in refrigerator for 24-72 hours or leave on the counter for 3-5 hours
- If refrigerated, remove two hours before you plan on baking pizza to give the dough a chance to warm up
A simple pizza sauce can be just as good as one with more ingredients. The most basic will include only tomatoes, salt, and maybe some oil and basil. This basic sauce is usually found on Neapolitan pizza. However, since I go for a more NY style pizza, I like to make a sauce with a little more kick.
Ingredients for sauce:
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 T red wine vinegar
- 1 T olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves diced garlic or 1 T garlic powder
- 1 t oregano
- 1/2 t basil (optional)
- Crushed red pepper to taste (I like it spicy)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the sauce ingredients together in a mixing bowl and leave for an hour or two if possible. You don’t need to cook the sauce. I play around with amounts all the time. Adjust to what you feel is best.
You can also use BBQ sauce, Alfredo sauce, or pesto depending on the types of pizza you make.
I’ve collected this list from some from some of the top pizza restaurants in the nation. Get as fancy or traditional as you see fit. Mix it up and have fun. I tend to allow for about an hour to prepare the ingredients.
Grated aged mozzarella
Fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks
Whole milk mozzarella (this is what I use and have only found it at Walmart)
Coarsely grated parmesan or romano
Grated provolone or cheddar
Smoked mozzarella or gouda
Pepperoni, preferably thick-sliced by hand
Raw sausage (preferably homemade)
Thin-sliced lardo (apply this directly to the dough with just a bare dusting of grated cheese on top)
Sliced onions (slice really thin into rings)
Mushrooms (cooked or fresh, thin sliced)
Cherry tomatoes, split
Eggplant slices, par-cooked (you can do this in the microwave!)
Sliced peppers or roasted peppers
Potatoes, parcooked and sliced
Shaved zucchini or squash
Figs, split in half
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Spices and Pickles
Coriander or fennel seed
Pistachios, pinenuts, almonds, or walnuts
Pickled banana or jalapeño peppers
Thin sliced prosciutto or serrano
Fresh herbs like basil or oregano (can also be applied before baking)
Salad greens like arugula
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Grated parmesan or romano
Thin sliced scallions
Extra-virgin olive oil or other strongly flavored oils
Putting It All Together
Preheat oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour on the highest temperature (500-550 degrees) your oven will go. If you have a stone/steel, make sure that is in the oven during preheat.
When you make the pizza, take the dough ball out and place it on a counter generously covered in flour (I’ve been using a half semolina/flour mix). You want to make sure there aren’t any wet spots on the bottom of the dough or it will stick if you are transferring it to a stone.
With the dough on the floured surface, press around the outside edge of the dough to form a small (~1/4-1/2 inch) crust. Gently press throughout the middle of the dough ball with your fingertips to slightly spread and dimple the dough. Try not to de-gas the dough – you want the pockets of air.
I usually pick up the dough at this point, holding it on my knuckles, and work around the edges moving it in a circle. Gravity will stretch the dough. You don’t want to go too fast or stretch too far or you will break the dough. If you take a sock hat and place your hands inside and stretch it with your knuckles in a circular motion, this is similar to how it will be with the dough. If it tears, bring both sides of the tear together and press to create a new seal.
Once it is about the size you want, place it on a lightly floured pizza peel or cookie sheet and top it with sauce, cheese (about 8 ounces for 14 inch pizza), etc. Shake it back and forth before moving it to the oven to make sure it slides around. Shimmy it onto the steel in the oven. You can also try placing it on parchment paper before topping it if you don’t have a good way to move it to the stone.
If you aren’t using a stone/steel at all, you can probably try putting it on a cookie sheet before topping and place that in the oven. Another thing you could try is placing one cookie sheet in the oven during preheat and moving from another onto the preheated sheet. What you are trying to achieve is a quick transfer of heat and the stone/steel/cookie sheet will help provide that.
Bake for 4-12 minutes depending on the toppings, oven temp, stone/steel, etc. The crust should brown and the cheese should be bubbly. Remove and let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting. I usually cool it on a wire rack and transfer it to a cutting board.
Alternate Dough Recipe
If you don’t have a scale and want to have pizza now, here is an alternate dough recipe for making four 10-inch pizzas:
- 2 1/4 t active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm water (105-110°F)
- 5-5 1/2 cups high gluten/bread flour
- 2 t fine sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil, for greasing the bowl.
Follow the instructions from the other recipe.